Interview with Bonnie and Clyde
Now that I have substantial supernatural experience in interviewing the undead – those folks who just won’t lie down and die and stay there – I have graduated to the level of talking with two people together. Our victims today, I mean subjects, are Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
Do you remember these two outstanding examples of Depression-era Americana? Here is their fascinating story directly from them.
me – Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Barrow. May I call you Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie – Sure.
Clyde – Whatever.
me – There have been so many stories and even a few movies about you both, I thought I would try to get the real story from you in person.
Clyde – Are you going to pay us for our story?
me – No, I hadn’t planned to. I didn’t think there was a way for you to spend any money I might pay you.
Bonnie – That’s for damn sure. Forget it.
Me – Bonnie, tell me a little about yourself. When and where were you born?
Bonnie – My natal day was October 1, 1910. Most people don’t know that my middle name is Elizabeth. I was born in Rowena, Texas – a very small town of less than 500 people. I was the middle child of three kids – like Bill Gates – that could explain a lot. You know what they say about middle children.
me – which is?
Bonnie – Middle children are often insecure because they may have a sense of not belonging – not getting the attention of the oldest and the youngest child. But they are often artistic and creative. I know I was; I loved to write poetry.
My dad was a bricklayer who died when I was four. Then my mother moved us to my grandparents’ home in Cement City, a suburb of Dallas. She worked as a seamstress there. In high school I was one of the best students and I won top prizes in writing, spelling and would you believe it, public speaking. I always have had the gift of gab.
Books about Bonnie and Clyde
me – How about you Clyde, when and where were you born?
Clyde – Bonnie and I grew up in the same area. I was born in Ellis County, Texas – just a hop, skip and a jump from Dallas/Fort Worth. It was a big city of 150,000 people compared to Rowena.
Bonnie – Any city was a big city compared to Rowena.
Clyde – See, I told you. She likes to get in the last word. For me, March 24, 1909 was the auspicious date. If she can say ‘natal’ I can say ‘auspicious’. I never use my middle name - Chestnut. Bonnie is complaining about being the middle child of only three. I was the fifth of seven and we were really poor when I was growing up. Go on, ask me, “How poor were you?”
me – Okay. How poor were you?
Clyde – I was so poor growing up . . . if I wasn't born a boy . . . I would have had nothing to play with.
me – Isn’t that one of Rodney Dangerfield’s famous one-liners?
Clyde – Yeah, I met him after he passed away in ‘04 and he is one funny guy. You were asking how poor I was. My family had been farmers and when they could no longer earn a living by farming in the early 1920s, they came to West Dallas to settle. At that time there were few real houses – just shanties and tent cities. We were too poor for either a shanty or a tent. For several months my family lived UNDER our wagon - that's the truth! - until my father, Henry, earned enough money to buy a tent. That was a major move upward.
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Me – Was Clyde your first love, Bonnie?
Bonnie – Not really. I didn’t even date until my second year in high school but that year I fell in love with a fellow in my class, Roy Thornton. He was a handsome guy and a sharp dresser – what we called the ‘cat’s pajamas’. Both of us quit school and we were married in September, 1926, six days before my 16th birthday.
There’s no happy ending there, like in the talking pictures (movies) which I love, because Roy was seldom home and frequently in trouble with the law. After January 1929, I never saw him again. We never divorced but strangely enough, I kept wearing his wedding ring.
Me – Clyde, what do you remember about first meeting Bonnie?
Clyde – I met her in January 1930. She was living with her mom and working as a part-time waitress in Dallas. She was only 19 and had been married to a guy who was in prison for murder. I was 21 and unmarried. I think it was love at first sight. She wasn’t quite five feet tall and didn’t weigh more than 90 pounds but she stole my heart.
me – How about you, Bonnie, how do you remember Clyde?
Bonnie – He talks about me being a talker but he talked a mile a minute. I could not get even one word in edgewise. His family had been even poorer than mine, and I knew he hated being poor and wanted to make a name for himself. I knew he had been in jail but I was bored with my life and knew I wanted something more. He was my Prince Charming.
me – When were you first arrested, Clyde?
Clyde – When I was 17 (late 1926) I was arrested for failing to return a rental car on time. The second arrest was for possession of stolen goods. My brother, Marvin “Buck” Barrow, and I had a bunch of turkeys – yes, live turkeys – that we couldn’t account for.
I did hold a few jobs in the late 20s but I also did typical guy things – cracked safes, robbed stores, and stole cars. I escaped once from jail using a gun Bonnie smuggled in for me. But I was recaptured and sent to Eastham Prison Farm. In February 1932, I was paroled and rejoined Bonnie.
Bonnie – It was Clyde’s terrible experiences in prison that made him a bitter criminal. He doesn’t talk about it but he was assaulted repeatedly for more than a year by a brutish inmate. With a length of pipe, he fractured the skull of this monster. That was the first person he killed. A former cellmate once told me that he watched him ‘change from a school-boy to a rattlesnake’.